In Memoriam: Dr. Joel Lee

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Joel Lee. Dr. Lee was a founding leader of the University of Georgia College of Public Health and served as the John A. Drew Professor Emeritus of Healthcare Administration in the Department of Health Policy and Management Department and as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. He passed away on January 16, 2024, after dedicating his life to public health service.

With a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) and Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Services Organization, Dr. Lee’s career spanned the globe and the academic spectrum. Dr. Lee was at the forefront of redesigning public health education in the U.S. and globally for more than four decades. He was highly involved with the Association for Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), serving as founding member and chair of the ASPPH DrPH Forum and was a valued contributor to the ASPPH Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Task Force.

Dr. Lee’s contributions were recognized through numerous accolades, including being named the 2015 recipient of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health/Pfizer Award for Teaching Excellence as well as receiving the prestigious “Golden Apple Award” from the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, where he served as professor emeritus. UK’s College of Public Health further honored his legacy by naming an annual award for outstanding public health graduates after him, The Joel M. Lee Prize.

At our College of Public Health, he was instrumental in the formation of our Doctor of Public Health program and starting our chapter of Delta Omega. He continued to be a strong advocate for professionalization of public health discipline through public health certification, even offering a training session for our students just this past November.

He loved working with students, most of all. His passion for teaching and commitment to mentoring the next generation of public health professionals left a lasting impact.

In retirement, Dr. Lee was deeply involved in his local community of Telluride, Colorado, especially during the critical periods of the COVID-19 response. He founded an advisory group of local public health experts, leading efforts to educate the community with a blend of empathy and scientific rigor. His writings in the Daily Planet served as vital resources for understanding the pandemic’s complexities.

In addition, Dr. Lee served on the Montrose Memorial Hospital Board, where he worked to improve health outcomes on the Western Slope of Colorado. His passion for enhancing health for all and his ability to drive significant public health initiatives will be profoundly missed.

Dr. Lee’s legacy of service, education and leadership in public health will continue to inspire vcurrent and future generations.

The College will honor and celebrate the life of Dr. Lee at its annual Delta Omega luncheon on April 5, 2024.

Posted February 13, 2024.